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Regional Headlines for Thursday, December 20, 2012


Connecticut Deaths Have Kansas Governor Focusing on Mental Health Services 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback says he wants to examine whether the state is providing adequate mental health services in the wake of last week's mass killings at a Connecticut school. But in an interview Thursday with The Associated Press, Brownback also said he's wary of having a debate about gun control. He says the issue is so politically polarized, and debating it would prevent discussion of other issues. Brownback has previously limited his comments about the killings at Sandy Hook Elementary School to expressing support for the victims' families. A gunman killed 26 people, including 20 children, before turning his weapon on himself. Brownback said he's examining whether Kansas spends enough on mental health services and whether the money is spent effectively.


Spokesperson: Governor Has No Timetable for Filling Cabinet Job

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A top aide says that Kansas Governor Sam Brownback has no timetable for filling a key Cabinet post in his administration. Spokeswoman Sherriene Jones-Sontag said Brownback expects to name an acting secretary of administration to replace Dennis Taylor, who leaves the job next month. Jones-Sontag said the governor plans to conduct a thorough search for a permanent secretary. Taylor will become executive director of the Kansas Lottery on January 13. He'll replace Dennis Wilson, who resigned earlier this month for health reasons. The secretary of administration is typically a close adviser to the governor, running a department that oversees state contracting, personnel and computer services. Taylor has held city and state government positions for 35 years and served in former Governor Mike Hayden's Cabinet.


Driving Hazardous as Winter Storm Crossed Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Driving was challenging in northeast Kansas Thursday morning, as workers struggled to keep roads clear of snow driven by strong winds. Interstate 70, which was closed on Wednesday, was open statewide Thursday morning with conditions described as icy and snow packed. A semitrailer was off the road near the Douglas-Shawnee county line as traffic was moving noticeably slower. The Kansas Department of Transportation reported that a stretch of U.S. 36 from just west of Troy to the Missouri border was closed in northeast Kansas. More than 30 schools called off classes across the state, with some opening late. Governor Sam Brownback delayed the opening of state offices in Shawnee County until midmorning, while only essential staff members were required to report to Fort Leavenworth. 

At the height of the storm, Kansas City Power & Light reported about 40,000 outages in Missouri and Kansas. The numbers were down to 380 in Kansas and 6,000 in Missouri by early afternoon.

Blowing Snow, Slick Spots Bedevil US 36 in Northeast Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Blowing snow and slick spots have made driving difficult along U.S. 36 in northeast Kansas. A short portion of the highway from Wathena east to the Missouri border was closed Thursday morning because motorists were sliding off the road. But the Kansas Department of Transportation reported that by mid-morning, all roads in northeast Kansas were open. All Star Travel Plaza employee Joetta Wagoner says she slid off the highway twice early Thursday, trying to get to work at the truck stop at the junction of U.S. 36 and U.S. 73 in Hiawatha. She was coming in because two managers couldn't get in. She said only a couple of inches of snow fell, but wind created white-out conditions, preventing people from seeing anything.

Patrol Blames Winter Weather for Fatal Accident

DODGE CITY, Kan. (AP) — Authorities have identified the man killed in a three-vehicle collision in southwestern Kansas blamed on the season's first big snowstorm. The crash happened amid blizzard conditions shortly before 8 pm Wednesday on U.S. 50, about 13 miles east of Dodge City. The Kansas Highway Patrol says a westbound tractor-trailer and an eastbound GMC vehicle collided head-on. A second westbound vehicle then ran into the others.The crash killed 21-year-old Roy Gaytan, of Dallas, Texas. He was a passenger in the GMC. Authorities initially said it appeared the tractor-trailer had crossed the center line. But the Highway Patrol on Thursday said the crash was still under investigation.


Wichita Officials Apologize for Icy Streets

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Top officials in Wichita have apologized for failing to prevent streets from icing up just before a morning rush-hour that saw dozens of accidents. The Wichita Eagle reports that Mayor Carl Brewer and city manager Robert Layton issued the apologies Thursday and pledged to do a better job the next time freezing precipitation is in the forecast. With the forecast late Wednesday calling for a light dusting of snow, city crews were prepared overnight to treat and clear intersections, hills and curves. But the snow was preceded by rain, and the temperature stayed above freezing. Layton says crews were caught by surprise when the temperature suddenly plummeted after 6 am, creating a glaze of ice on the roads.

Some Flights Canceled Due to Midwest Winter Storm

DALLAS (AP) — American Airlines has canceled about 120 flights due to a winter storm making its snowy way across the Midwest and other bad weather. A spokeswoman for Fort Worth-based American said Thursday that the carrier is trying to delay and not cancel flights for customers trying to make their holiday travel plans. Andrea Huguely says some flights were canceled following thunderstorms in the Dallas-Fort Worth area Wednesday night. Some bus travel has also been disrupted by heavy snow and strong winds that combined for blizzard conditions from Kansas to Wisconsin. Maureen Richmond with Dallas-based Greyhound Bus Lines says the carrier's main delays Thursday were in Minnesota and Wisconsin, on routes between Minneapolis and Milwaukee. She did not immediately have figures on cancellations.


Regents Greenlight Tougher Admissions Standards for KU

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Beginning in 2016, students wanting to study at the University of Kansas will have to meet increased admission standards. The Kansas Board of Regents on Wednesday approved the new standards. Admission standards will remain the same at the other five regents universities in Kansas. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the new standards will require graduating high school students to complete a pre-college curriculum. For automatic admission, they also will be required to have either a minimum 3.0 GPA and an ACT score of at least 24 or SAT of at least 1090, or a minimum 3.25 GPA and an ACT score of 21 or SAT of 980. A committee will review applications from students who don't meet the criteria for automatic admission.


Kansas Regents Approve Room and Board Increases

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Students at the state's six universities will pay more for room and board next year. The Kansas Board of Regents on Wednesday approved rate increases for all six schools, ranging from a 3.7 percent increase at Emporia State University to 1.08 percent at Fort Hays State. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that other rate increases will be 2.5 percent at the University of Kansas; 3.5 percent at Kansas State and Wichita State universities; and 3 percent at Pittsburg State.


Brownback Urges Moment of Silence for Newtown Dead

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback is urging Kansans to observe a moment of silence this Friday for the victims of the school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut. Brownback and governors across the country are calling for people to pause and reflect at 9:30 a.m. in local time zones. That's the hour of the shooting last Friday at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The gunman killed 20 first-graders and six adults before committing suicide. He also killed his mother at their home. Brownback described the crime as "senseless" in a news release Wednesday. He says that the state's "hearts and prayers are with everyone in Newtown."


Topeka Police Investigating City's 16th Homicide

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Topeka police say a man is in custody for questioning in the stabbing death of a woman. The woman was found dead Wednesday night at an apartment complex. The victim was in her 40s but her name has not been released. Lieutenant Ron Gish says a 23-year-old man is in custody. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports Gish said the suspect told his mother he had stabbed a woman in an apartment. The woman's death is the city's 16th homicide this year.


Drought Continues to Grip Midwest

ST. LOUIS (AP) — The worst U.S. drought in decades continues its iron-fisted grip across much of the nation's key farming states, though some relief could come from the first major snowstorm of the season trekking eastward across the Midwest. Thursday's weekly U.S. Drought Monitor update shows that roughly 62 percent of the continental U.S. remains in some form of drought, unchanged from the previous week. That number has been above 60 percent largely since July. Nearly 22 percent of the lower 48 states are in extreme or exceptional drought, the two worst categories. That's up a half of a percentage point from a week earlier. The latest numbers are as of Tuesday, before the arrival of the Midwest's first winter snowstorm. All of South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas and Oklahoma are officially classified as experiencing drought conditions.


Atkins Diet Backer Indicted for Tax Evasion

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Lawrence obesity specialist who co-authored the "Atkins Diabetes Revolution" with the late weight loss expert and others has been indicted on tax evasion charges. The U.S. attorney's office said Wednesday that Doctor Mary Vernon is charged with five counts of tax evasion and one count of making a false statement to a bank to obtain a loan. The "Atkins Diabetes Revolution" was published in 2004, a year after the death of Dr. Robert Atkins. The 60-year-old Vernon earned almost $800,000 by working for Atkins' companies from 2003 to 2008. While applying to refinance a home, she is accused of providing documents purported to be income tax returns from 2006 and 2007. But she didn't file returns either year. Vernon didn't immediately return a phone call from The Associated Press.


Midwest, Plains Bankers See Rural Economy Growing

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A new survey of rural bankers shows that rising commodity prices and lower energy costs are helping businesses in Midwestern states and the northern Plains. The Rural Mainstreet Index released Thursday climbed in December, the fourth straight month of growth. Creighton University economist Ernie Goss, who oversees the survey, says the reading is the healthiest recorded since June 2007. The survey showed increases in bank borrowing to purchase farmland and equipment, and rising farmland prices. The December hiring index rose half a point, to 53.5. The home-sales index slipped in December, to 61.3 from November's 62.0. The index ranges from 0 to 100, with 50 representing "growth neutral." It's based on a survey of rural bankers in Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming.

Kansas Man Sentenced to 10 Years for Enticing Minor

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A 24-year-old Kansas man has been sentenced to 10 years in federal prison for using his cell phone to send graphic texts and photos to a 13-year-old girl. Richard J. Byler of Baxter Springs was sentenced Wednesday. He pleaded guilty earlier to attempting to entice a minor to engage in illegal sexual activity. The U.S. Attorney's office for western Missouri says in a release that the child's mother discovered the texts in August 2012 and told authorities. The child met Byler earlier in the summer when she was performing community service at a Joplin non-profit where Byler worked. Federal prosecutors say a law enforcement officer then portrayed himself as the girl on her cell phone, and Byler asked that she send him nude images and proposed meeting for sex.

Appeals Court Allows Lawsuit in Child's Death

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal appeals court has reinstated a lawsuit alleging that a Kansas social worker's inaction led to the beating death of a 23-month-old girl. The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver Wednesday reversed a ruling by a Kansas court throwing out the lawsuit against Linda Gillen. She no longer works for the Kansas social services agency, but the state is defending her in court. The maternal grandparents of Brooklyn Coons of Coffeyville allege in the lawsuit that Gillen intentionally ignored their complaints about their granddaughter's care. The girl was beaten to death in January 2008. Her father's girlfriend, Melissa Wells, was convicted of murdering the girl. The Wichita Eagle reports the appeals court said the remaining issue is whether Gillen intentionally failed to act on the grandparents' complaints.

Disbarred KC Attorney Seeks Return of Law License

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A disbarred Kansas City attorney whose conviction for killing his law partner was overturned wants his law license back. Richard Buchli II was convicted in 2002 of first-degree murder in the death of his partner, Richard Armitage, in their Kansas City law office. The Missouri Supreme Court disbarred him in 2005 based on the conviction. A judge overturned the conviction 2006 because evidence was withheld from the defense. Jackson County prosecutors dismissed the case earlier this year after a judge threw out most of the evidence. Buchli is asking the Missouri Supreme Court to rescind his disbarment. The Kansas City Star reports that the Jackson County (Missouri) prosecutor and Armitage's widow object to Buchli getting his law license back.


Convict Among Two Topeka Attorneys Disbarred

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Topeka attorney who stole more than $460,000 from several clients' trust funds and another accused of inadequately representing clients will no longer be able to practice law. Dockets provided by the Kansas Supreme Court on Wednesday show that Robert Telthorst and Steven Rosel have been disbarred. The Topeka Capital-Journal reported that the men voluntarily surrendering their law licenses previously. Telthorst pleaded guilty last month to wire fraud and money laundering. He admitted to taking clients' money for his personal use. Meanwhile, three professional conduct complaints had been filed against Rosel. He's accused of making inappropriate advances toward a client's wife and then charging for the time he spent talking to her. Another client says that while he was being interviewed by police, Rosel was "disinterested, and possibly asleep."


Longtime Kansas Teacher Killed in Accident

LOUISBURG, Kan. (AP) — Students and staff at Louisburg High School are mourning the death of a longtime teacher. Miami County authorities say 67-year-old Glenda Beasley was killed Wednesday afternoon on Kansas 68 about one mile west of Louisburg. She had stopped for a school bus that was dropping off children when a pickup truck struck her from behind. Beasley was dead at the scene. The truck driver suffered minor injuries. KMBC-TV reports Beasley was a business and computer teacher at the high school. She had been a teacher for 29 years and was planning to retire at the end of the school year. About 200 people gathered at the school Wednesday after word of her death spread. Officials said counselors would be on hand Thursday and final exams were postponed.


Kansas Geological Survey to Measure Groundwater

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Crews from the Kansas Geological Survey will be in western Kansas in early January to measure groundwater levels in more than 500 wells. The work is part of the survey's efforts to track changes in the depth of the region's aquifers. The University of Kansas said in a news release that crews will work near Colby, Goodland, Syracuse and Liberal during the first week of January. The state's Division of Water Resources will measure water levels in nearly 900 more wells in the central and western park of the state. The monitoring focuses on the massive High Plains aquifer system, which consists largely of the Ogallala aquifer. The data is used by landowners, state and federal agencies, local groundwater management districts, private entities and the general public.


$50 Million Powerball Ticket Sold in NE Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Someone in northeast Kansas is a new multimillionaire. Kansas lottery officials say a single ticket sold in northeast Kansas matched all six numbers in Wednesday night's Powerball drawing. The jackpot was worth an estimated $50 million. The ticket matched the numbers of 5-8-20-23-30 with a Powerball of 3. State lottery officials say the cash option for the prize is an estimated $32.6 million. Details of where in the ticket was sold were not immediately released.


Chiefs Prepare for Mirthless Home Finale vs Colts

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Arrowhead Stadium hasn't been much of a home-field advantage for the Chiefs lately. Kansas City must win its home finale Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts to avoid having a single home win over the course of a season for the third time in five years. Prior to that, the Chiefs had won more than once at Arrowhead Stadium every season since 1977. Kansas City is a combined 12-27 over the past five seasons, a winning percentage of .308 — well below the Chiefs' success rate of better than 57 percent at their 40-year-old home. Empty seats have been multiplying with every loss the past two seasons, too. While the Chiefs' average home attendance remains 69,304 — good for 13th in the NFL — it also represents just 90.3 percent of capacity, better only than six teams in the league.


Chiefs' Charles Focused on Finishing Strong 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles says he's focused on finishing strong after coming back from a devastating knee injury and then dealing with a murder-suicide that hit close to home. Charles tore his left ACL early last season, but has returned to be one of the few bright spots for the 2-12 Chiefs. He's run for 1,230 yards and four touchdowns this year. What he's overcome physically pales in comparison to what he's dealt with emotionally. Three weeks ago Saturday, Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher shot to death his girlfriend, Kasandra Perkins, and then drove to Arrowhead Stadium and committed suicide. Perkins was the cousin of Charles's wife, Whitney, and Charles introduced her to Belcher. Charles declined to talk about the shootings Thursday, saying "I just want to talk about football."


Storm Closes Roads in KS

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Portions of two major highways in northwestern Kansas have been closed because of hazardous winter weather conditions. A powerful storm moving out of the Rockies on Wednesday created near blizzard conditions in portions of the state. Transportation officials closed sections of Interstate 70 and U.S. 36. Blowing snow also contributed to a crash that closed Kansas 96 between Tribune and Leoti. At least two school districts canceled Wednesday classes ahead of the storm. 

**this story has been updated. Please see above. 


Snow Storm Dumps Foot of Snow in Rockies

DENVER (AP) — A storm that has dumped more than a foot of snow in the Rocky Mountains is causing problems for travelers as it spreads across the Plains. The main east-west route across Colorado, Interstate 70, was closed from east of Denver to the Kansas line because of poor visibility due to blowing snow Wednesday. Smaller highways were also closed in eastern Colorado. Drivers in Iowa and Nebraska were being warned to be careful or stop driving altogether starting yesterday evening as the Plains gets its first major winter storm of the season. Light snow was also expected at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport Thursday and strong winds could make visibility poor. National Weather Service forecaster Jamie Enderlen says that, combined with low clouds, could cause delays at the nation's second-busiest airport.

**this story has been updated. Please see above.

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